Should drunk drivers who kill get penalized for murder if convicted?

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More outrage and calls for stronger penalties in light of Monday’s deadly Kakaako crash. First it was lawmakers.  Now a former prosecutor wants to crack down on drunk drivers.

Former Honolulu Prosecutor Peter Carlisle says Hawaii should have aggravated manslaughter as a criminal charge, which would carry the same type of penalty as murder.

Prosecutors charged suspect Alins Sumang with three counts of manslaughter. Carlisle says the state should put a law in the books that would allow for a charge of Aggravated Manslaughter. 

It would be applied to a crash with multiple fatalities and if the suspect has a criminal record.

“If you have sufficiently aggravated circumstances such as this case, then my thought is that you ought to give them the opportunity to extend that at the judge’s discretion as to whether or not it’s gonna be tried as a murder type case with the same penalties that a murder would have,” said Carlisle.

Murder charges were applied to another notorious DUI tragedy before. In 1988, Bucky Lake was driving a car that crashed head on into a van near Makapuu. Five people died in that incident. Keith Shigetomi was Lake’s attorney.

“At the time there was a lot of outrage. And I think that caused the case to be charged as five counts of murder in the second degree and that was the first time that it ever happened. Of course it’s also the last time it ever happened,” said Shigetomi.

A jury convicted Lake of the lesser charge of manslaughter and he was given the maximum sentence of 10 years. Lawmakers have since increased the maximum sentence to 20 years for manslaughter. 
     
James Stenseifer was the first DUI case to get that 20 year sentence. In 1997, his car crashed head on into another vehicle in Kapolei, killing two sisters and their one year old niece. 

He served 15 years. He was arrested again for DUI in Minnesota in 2016 where he had been living under the name James Hoffos.

Some key lawmakers say putting aggravated manslaughter in the law books makes sense and will consider it in this year’s legislative session. 
 

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